Thursday, February 11, 2021

Jim Ford - Harlan County (Rare US Country-Soul-Funk 1969) <<------------- Not to be missed!

Size: 145 MB
Bit Rate: 256
Ripped By: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included

Originally from New Orleans, Jim Ford lost interest in his academic pursuits and, in 1966, drifted out to California. He was passing through L.A., on his way to the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco, when he met two session musicians, Pat and Lolly Vegas. The Native American rockers — who later formed the commercially successful Redbone — had worked on the Shindig television show at the time, and had already recorded their Pat and Lolly Vegas at the Haunted House album for Mercury. After hearing his songwriting talent first-hand, the Vegas brothers brought Ford to the attention of Del-Fi Records' honcho Bob Keane, known around the L.A. music scene for his "open door policy." Keane released a couple of Ford's singles on Del-Fi's Mustang label, both of which sank without a trace. Del-Fi/Bronco recording artist Viola Wills also recorded one of his songs. Along with Pat and Lolly Vegas, Ford wrote the P.J. Proby hit "Niki Hoeky" (it peaked at number 23 on Billboard's pop charts in January 1967), which Ford's former girlfriend Bobbie Gentry also sang on one of her later albums. In 1969, Ford got the opportunity to record his debut album. Harlan County (released on the Sundown label, a small subsidiary of White Whale) featured funky, mid-tempo country, and R&B-flavored rockers with a driving Muscle Shoals-style rhythm section, with backing and arrangements by the Vegas brothers and Gene Page. 

Most of Ford's original songs had a lyrical narrative recalling the hardship of growing up in the coal-mining country of Harlan County, KY. Among the various highlights are his fuzz-drenched cover version of Willie Dixon's "Spoonful," his take on Delaney & Bonnie's hip-shake boogie "Long Road Ahead," and a remake of the swampy classic "I'm Gonna Make Her Love Me ('Til the Cows Come Home)." In 1971, Ford's manager, Si Waronker (founder of Liberty Records), flew his artist to London, where he was booked into Olympic Studios to record a follow-up album. This time he was backed by pub rockers Brinsley Schwartz (they later recorded "Niki Hoeky" and Ford's "Ju Ju Man"; Nick Lowe also recorded Ford's "36 Inches High" for his Jesus of Cool album). After three days of sessions, the band failed to keep up to the challenge of backing Ford, so Waronker brought in Joe Cocker's Grease Band, but they too didn't work out. As the project never did quite meet up to everyone's expectations, it was eventually aborted. The tapes for these sessions have reportedly disappeared. 

Ford returned to the U.S. and his career never really took off as expected. He wrote songs for Bobby Womack in 1972 (including the wonderful "Harry Hippie"), and later worked with friend Sly Stone (he even moved into Stone's Holmby Hills home for awhile), but since the early '70s, Ford has slipped out of sight.

The legendary ''Harlan County'' album, PLUS rare singles and previously unreleased masters! The first and last word on an underground roots music legend! Jim Ford’s original album from 1969 has been described as the holy grail of country soul. Contains extensive liner notes that for the first time ever- tell the whole Jim Ford story. Includes ten previously unreleased recordings recently discovered at Ford's home. Only available here. Includes five songs from Jim Ford's ultra-rare 45rpm singles, never released on CD before. Previously unpublished photos personally supplied by Jim Ford. Jim Ford is the composer of Aretha Franklin and PJ Proby’s 'Niky Hoeky', Bobby Womack's 'Harry Hippie', and - as revealed in the liner notes- he also wrote Bobbie Gentry's 'Ode To Billie Joe'.

This is essential for any lover of late 60's, early 70's country-soul-funk. Amazingly, his album "Harlan County" has never received the attention it deserves. I heard of this through a friend. Nick Lowe confirms in the wonderful liner notes that Jim Ford was his biggest influence. As a huge Nick fan, it seems appropriate to dig into this stuff. The CD is in a great digipack form and includes an in-depth story and interview with Jim Ford by a guy from Sweden. So Jim is alive and well to appreciate this overdue collection. 

The "Harlan County" record features a great band. It was recorded in 1969 and includes James Burton - he's played with Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Gram Parsons, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison and tons others, Jim Keltner on the drums - who I've long adored as a drummer laying down possibly his best drum beats in 1969!! If you do a search on Keltner you'll see an incredible list or artists that he's played with and made their records better. Amazingly, not many Keltner discographies even mention this record! I've heard many Keltner performances - this is my favorite! Also features Dr. John on piano and keyboards. What's not to like with that band? Then the songs kick in. The title track is a classic romp through Jim's childhood in the coal mining hills of Kentucky. The rest of the album builds with slower tunes like "Changing Colors" which includes a lo-fi sound, but with string section and Jim singing wonderfully almost in a Glen Campbell style. Another classic is "Love On The Brain". Man, a great groove ala the Stones. Then it goes into overdrive with "Long Road Ahead", "Under Construction" and "Working My Way To L.A.". You won't hear three more soulful groovin', yet hard hittin' tunes in a row. Once again, I've never heard such impassioned drumming from Keltner! The album finishes up with a scathing take of "Spoonful" (the old Howlin' Wolf tune) and then Jim really lays out every bit of his vocal with "To Make My Life Beautiful". And that's just the "Harlan County" record. The rest of the tunes show more promise and get stuck in your head quite easily. "Big Mouth USA" is just classic country ala "Harper Valley PTA". "Ten Inches High" is a song I'd originally heard covered by Nick Lowe. 

Jim's version will give you chills. I'm not going song by song, but all of these rare tunes and outtakes ending with his first single "Hangin' From Your Lovin Tree" make this release ideal to any "real" lover of country-soul music! The interview and story with the CD are interesting. Sounds like a few breaks here or there - especially missing out on signing with Atlantic w/ Jerry Wexler (the classic producer of Willie Nelson etc.) hurt Jim's chances of making a great career. There may be more tapes out there with more tunes in hopes of unearthing for another lost Jim Ford collection. 
This is the stuff of legends. But it's real - it's here. Pick it up. It's fantastic! (By  Spencer Marquart (St. Louis, MO USA)  

01. Harlan County  
02. I'm Gonna Make Her Love Me  
03. Changing Colors  
04. Dr Handy's Dandy Candy  
05. Love On My Brain  
06. Long Road Ahead  
07. Under Construction  
08. Working My Way To L.A.  
09. Spoonful  
10. To Make My Life Beautiful

Bonus Tracks  
11. Big Mouth USA  
12. 36 Inches High  
13. Sounds Of Our Time  
14. Chain Gang  
15. I Wonder What They'll Do With Today  
16. Go Through Sunday  
17. She Turns My Radio On  
18. Mixed Green  
19. Happy Songs Sell Records, Sad Songs Sell Beer  
20. It Takes Two (To Make One)  
21. Big Mouth Usa  
22. Rising Sign  
23. Linda Comes Running  
24. Ramona  
25. Hanging From Your Lovin' Tree  



Bob Mac said...

Thanks for this one.

Guitarradeplastico,scraping oddities said...

Many thanks

Chocoreve said...

Thanks for Jim Ford - Harlan County !

Charles Hodgson said...

Thanks for posting, I bought the CD several years ago now.
Apparently Ford claimed ownership of 'Ode To Billie Joe', backed up Nick Lowe, but Bibbie Gentry has donated her original handwritten lyrics with changesc and amends, to a museum, with, which kinda proves it's hers.

Rhodb said...

Thanks for the chance to hear Jim Ford


HDN said...

Bear Family in Germany has a couple more of his (unreleased) albums. Thank you Chris for pointing the interested in the right direction.

rntcj said...


Thanx for this one. A "new" artist here = "new" hears here.

Ciao! For now.

festoonic said...

This is every bit as good as you say. Somebody's version of "I'm Make Her Love Me" got airplay in Boston in the early '70s. What an era. Thank you!

heartsofstone said...

This is an awesome comp.

Malaspina said...

Thanks Chris ... much appreciated.